These days it seems like more and more people are running 10Ks, halves, and marathons. However, if you’ve never been into running but want to see what all the fuss is about, don’t be put off starting with a more manageable target to get you started, like signing up for a few 5K races.
To help give you a boost in confidence before you sign up for your first big race, we’ve put together a few top tips to put you at ease on race day.
1. Getting started is easiest with company
When you’re just getting started with running it’s easy to find it daunting and to get inside your own head telling yourself “I can’t do it”, “I’ll start tomorrow”, or “I’m not the right shape for a runner”. Whether it is with a friend, a colleague or a local running group, getting started is immeasurably easier when stepped into with other people present to help you turn off the devil on your shoulder.
2. Take things one step at a time
Although running with others works to give you a psychological boost in some ways, it can also make you want to push yourself too hard too quickly. Therefore, it is important to remember to listen to your own body and not to put pressure on yourself to be at a level you are not, just because someone else is further down the line than you.
3. Make a plan
Having a specific target to aim towards, such as a having a 5K booked in rather than a vague notion of where you might possibly want to maybe reach by some unspecified time, will help you achieve your goals much quicker. Devise a training programme that gets you out running regularly as this not only means you’ll be able to run farther quicker, you’ll also begin to modify your behaviour and even your own thinking patterns that will in turn make getting out on a run easier.
4. Build distance first
You shouldn’t be afraid to mix walking in with running at first as your body needs the time to adjust and running too much too soon often leads new runners to quit. Try mixing 30 seconds to one minute of running time with 1-3 minutes of fast walking to begin with, running again once you have caught your breath, adapting the time-frames as you improve. You should also focus on going further not faster at first as your body needs to adapt to regular running.
5. Take rest days
Make sure to have some rest days as this allows your body to grow stronger and prevent injury. This tip becomes even more important when you start running longer distances, but the same applies to newcomers building up to their first ‘5K marathon’. If you just can’t stay still on a rest day it can be good to get in some body-strength training or cross-training activities, such as yoga, swimming or cycling to add variety that will help build muscle strength, muscle flexibility, and anaerobic strength.
6. Learn to pace yourself
Once you’ve found yourself running far more than walking, you’re ready to start learning how to pace yourself. Try repeating circuits and tracking your times, whilst always listening to your body and not pushing yourself too hard too quickly. You can also track your times over a mile or half-mile distances, with plenty of apps and devices available to help you monitor speed distances.
7. You are what you eat
Remember that when you are running longer and longer distances, what you eat and when you eat it becomes more and more important. You should also try to stock up on carbs the night before a long run and refuel and rehydrate as soon as you get back in from a run. A good ratio of carbohydrates to protein to aim for is about 3 or 4 to 1.
8. Be prepared for race day
To be prepared for the big day you’ll need to have yourself a good pair of running shoes that you’ve worn in and some clothes you’ve had your best run in. This will help avoid any unforeseen issues like chafing or blisters and provide you with a psychological boost. Start slow and build up speed if you can. If you have a chance, check out the course itself before the day to help you pace yourself better.
With these simple tips, you’ll soon be reaping the rewards of running and smiling as you cross the finish line of your first 5K, no matter what time you finish in. Remember, running can be a life-changing experience and often leads people to positive contemplation that can have a superb influence over our mental states as well as just being a healthy thing to do.